Don’t you just love looking at a map for one place and spotting a familiar sounding name – the Ah! so that’s where that is! moment. It happened recently in New Jersey when I came across PRINCETON while looking for a ‘bit of a day out’.
Near enough to half way between NYC and Philadelphia, this university town is certainly a nice place to while away a few hours. With a mix of shops, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and squares, the compact town centre is perfect for a spot of lunch after a stroll around the campus.
Pretty as the town is, the university is the big draw. Considered the fourth oldest institution in the country, the grounds and buildings are just beautiful. Covering 690 acres, some 180 buildings span quite a range of architectural styles and then there are the sculptures, archways, gates…. yep – plenty to look at!
The university sprang from the Great Awakening of the 18th century – a period of religious upheaval in the American colonies. In 1746, the College of New Jersey was granted a charter and while its Presbyterian founders intended a seminary for the education of Ministers of the Gospel, it was hoped to be also useful in other learned professions. Uniquely at the time, the charter welcomed students of every religious denomination – provided they behaved with sobriety and virtue! Beginning humbly with 8 -10 students in Elizabeth, NJ, the college moved to Newark in 1748 and finally to Princeton in 1756. By 1811, the institution was perceived as becoming too secular in its curriculum so a separate institution, the Theological Seminary, was founded in 1812. In the 1920s Princeton ceased being a Presbyterian institution.
The Ivy League consists of 8 colleges – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth College. While there isn’t 100% agreement on the origin of the term, Ivy League is usually attributed to sports writer Caswell Adams. Writing for the NY Herald- Tribune in the 1930’s, Adams was assigned an eastern football league match between Columbia and University of Pennsylvania. He complained to his boss about having to write about those ‘old ivy-covered universities’ and went on to use the term in his article.
Our visit in early September coincided with the return of students for the fall semester. Specifically, the college was welcoming its sophomore students back for their second year and the campus was a hive of activity around the dorms and student shop….
Another Trivia Moment!
Sophomore comes from the Greek words for clever/wise (sophos) and foolish (moros – which is also the etymon of moron, of course!) and presumably alludes to the exaggerated opinion which students of this age have of their own knowledge and maturity !
The university is home to quite a significant sculpture collection – much of which can be enjoyed on a stroll through the campus.
Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar executed Pablo Picasso’s Head of a Woman in 1971 from a twelve-inch version that Picasso had completed in 1962. The huge project – nearly 16ft in height – was poured and then sandblasted on-site. Picasso, who approved the project, received no fee for the work
Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads was inspired by sculptures that once adorned the fountain clock at Yuanming Yuan – an imperial retreat outside Beijing. Representing the signs of the zodiac, the animal heads each spouted water for two hours per day. Designed by two European Jesuits in the mid 18th century, the original works were looted in 1860 when France and Britain invaded China. Of the 12 figures, only seven are known to have survived and have been repatriated to China. A 2009 Christies auction spurred controversy when the rabbit and rat were sold for €28 million to a member of the Chinese National Treasury Fund who then refused to pay (the heads were eventually returned to China in 2013). Ai Weiwei’s sculpture prompts consideration of ownership, looting and repatriation as well as the notions of fake and copy (he had to reimagine the missing pieces).